George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Louis Lagrenade et al., 24 January 1791

From Louis Lagrenade et al.

[24 January 1791]

May it please your Excellency

We The free coloured people of the Island of Grenada, having taken into consideration a writing, the purport of which (they are informed) is your Excellency’s generous dispositon of giving that unfortunate Class of people, an Asylum in the southern parts of the States of your Excellency’s Government; have inclosed herewith, a Copy of the same humbly requesting your Excellency to Confirm its authenticity;1 in order that they may have that faith in it which a subject of such magnitude requires. Such an Act of your Excellency’s Generosity, will excite their deepest gratitude and they will deem themselves peculiarly blest, if their unhappy Situation in these Islands can have touched your Breast so as to move your Benevolence to furnish them with the means of coming out of their Captivity, and to introduce them into a new Canaan, where they will enjoy all the Happiness of that precious Liberty, which you gloriously and generously defended, and maintained in favor of Your illustrious Countrymen. Your Excellency’s Rendering this a Certainty, will determine Sixty thousand free Coloured Individuals to Settle in Your Country for the Honor and prosperity of their Family’s, and there to enjoy a tolerable existence; them & their Slaves will be fully sufficient to form their Establishments.

It will be then that the plains of America (from that time became the Happy residence of People capable of the Highest Gratitude, for the Clemency bestowed upon them, by your Excellency & the Honourable Congress) will be with greater Certainty, the Asylum of Peace free from the disturbance of all those who might endeavour to interrupt the Continuance of the Happiness of our Benefactors, which we would always support with the same resolution, and ardour, as they themselves have showed; an example to all the Nations of the World, in procuring for themselves that independency which they now enjoy. It is with those Sentiments that we are in Hopes to attain to those days, so Happy and so desirable; which will enable us to prove to You, all the veneration, and respect, with which we Have the Honor to be. May it please Your Excellency Your most Humble and Most Obedient Servants The Committee.

Los Lagrenade

Jn Pre Saulger

F: Julien

Joseph Green

Translation, DLC:GW; DS, in French, DLC:GW. The text is taken from a translation prepared for GW. The DS includes a postscript that was not translated for GW. It asked him to address his reply to François Julien, a merchant at St. Georges. Louis Lagrenade (La Grenade; 1733-1808) was a plantation owner and militia officer. Jean Pierre Saulger was also a planter.

1The enclosure was an unsigned address “To the Free Men of Colour in the West India Islands,” encouraging the establishment of a free black colony of transplanted West Indians in the American Southwest. The original is in French. A translation made for GW reads: “Gentlemen This Narrative is humbly transmited by a person deeply Interested in your future welfare and happyness which can no less be allow’d by your wise considerations, At the same time flatters himself that due attention will be paid to such parts of this Narrative which points at so great and Laudable a design as the future ease and happyness of a people requires who seems to be almost without Existance in their present situation.

“Forasmuch as it hath been the Divine Will and pleasure of the great arbiter of the Universe so to Illuminate the World and to extend to the knowledge of all mankind a Divine inspiration of their past ills and Calamities which their Fore Fathers have for many centuries back waded in; in utter darkness. and Whereas it hath been the pleasure of the almighty Ruler of Heaven and Earth this his great mercy and Wisdom so to illuminate the minds of men whereby Kingdoms and states may [be] established in Righteousness forever.

“And Forasmuch as all enlightned nations who regard their present and future prosperity, have endeavoured to form themselvs into society’s by which noble Institution they become a Formidable Body of people entered into a Sacred League with one another for their mutual security and lasting prosperity which Body of men so united is then deem’d a state or republic as Such they behave and as such must and will be respected in the eyes of all the World and from which must follow all the Blessings and comforts that consists in a free people.

“The americans Claim to Independence was founded on strict principles of Liberty and Justice Which they have establish’d by the Divine will of God so that the extensive and fertile continent so bravely fought for by her Virtuous sons have now become the Land of Freedom and ease. and such is the generosity of them that they offer a full and free assylum to all the World to partake of the Blessings of Peace free Liberty and ample protection in her extensive and Fertile plains and City’s.

“And because the free Colour’d people in the different West India Islands amounts to a number fully addequate to the formation of an independent Colony in the Southern parts of North America a plan should their Wisdom suggest and prompt them to prosecute will tend Highly to their Honour and future prosperity And from which noble and Wise Institution they will be able to extricate themselves and their offspring from a Land of torment and misery wherein they are dispisd, and Illtreated by Laws which is Unreasonable for any Freeman to endure neither Can they bear up against it So as to merit a reform to their advantage Such is your Unhappy state O! ye free Coloured People of the West Indies and your offspring instead of flourish⟨ig round ye⟩ like the young alive plants are daily dwindling into thorns and Briars for want of proper Cultivation and rural amusements your sons for want of Education under a free Government are rais’d up in Idleness and your Daughters are all Sacrifice’d as Victims to the Brutish lust of those Whom have no other Generosity or respect towards them than to your eternal disgrace and to their shame and Confusion⟨—⟩And Whereas Liberty and Independance is the great birthright of all Nations Upon the Earth by the Divine Will of the supreme being provided mankind will only allow themselves a few moments to Consider on the Formation of the great Universe from such observations and Motives the free and generous sons of america by their example have enlightned all Europe and have manifested a lasting example to all Nations of the Universe. that they have and will ever support at the risk of their Lives and Fortunes that great birthright of mankind Liberty and Independence as a Lasting testimony of their Generosity and Regard for the good of mankind, and for the distress’d of all nations have offer’d them a free assylum and protiction to their Lives Liberty’s Religion and Fortune—It is to you Free Coloured people that is wandering in the West India Islands and have no place of abode, That I now do myself the Honour to address. Now is the time for ye to be rais’d from your Slumbers and enlighten yourselves and look forward to a land now offer’d to you a Land of Freedom and ease flowing with milk and honey. a Land of great comforts where you may form a Colony of your own appoint your own Laws and Government Under your own People for our mutual prosperity and the encouragement of arts Sciences and agriculture your young men will then be taught to tread the paths of Virtue and Wisdom and your Daughters will be esteem’d the Virtuous and amiable and which must in a short time make you a nation of great Respectability by freely embracing the present moment of Establishing your selves to be a Free people, For who cannot but tremble at your former as well as present Situation which is little short of the most abject Slavery a Charracter greatly to be dispised by all men of genus and generosity.

“Furthermore I shall give you the satisfaction of informing you of the Climate Soil and productions of this Country. The Clime is mild and Healthy. The Soil rich and Fertile Capable of producing all manner of necessaries for the subsistance of mankind. Cotton. Indigo. Tobacco, Wheat. Rye. Oats. Barley Corn. peas. potatoes. and all manner of Vegetables in the utmost perfection and also white oak staves. Pitch pine. Cypress Shingles For Turpintine and Pitch. The Forrest is well stored with Game. The Rivers affords a great variety of Fish. and the extensive meadows is Capable of raising immense Herds of Cattle. Indeed it can be said with much propriety that no part of the Continent of North America can boast of superior advantages and none equal in Salubrity of Climate and Fertility of Soil” (DLC:GW).

Nothing in this extraordinary address indicates that it was an official communication from the U.S. government, as the Grenadians inferred. The editors of the Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends speculate that the address may have been written by the flamboyant James O’Fallon, who was deeply involved in efforts to occupy the southwestern parts of the United States in open defiance of American treaty obligations (see the detailed editorial note in Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 20:552–55).

GW received the letter from Grenada on 12 June 1791 and referred the “very unexpected address” to Jefferson for his opinion (see GW to Jefferson, 15 June 1791). Jefferson replied to GW on 20 June 1791 advising against a reply to the letter, noting that the authors “are parties in a domestic quarrel, which I think we should leave to be settled among themselves.”

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